Friday, 20 October 2017

Corporate Bullying

“Why do we crucify ourselves everyday…? Nothing I do is good enough for you…”
—Tori Amos

It’s a general truism that you can’t see yourself trapped inside an abusive relationship until you come out of it. This is certainly true for me having just left a four year relationship in which nothing I ever did—just like Ms. Amos sang—was good enough. Despite me sacrificing weekends and regularly putting 12 hour days to make it work; Despite me single-handedly tripling the annual turnover; Despite me working two jobs, rather than the one I’d been hired to do thanks to mission creep; it was always met with “overall ongoing discontentment.”

I should’ve known better, of course, as I’d been here before. My previous relationship lasted nine years, and like all long-term relationships we had our ups and downs. 

What hurts most, then and now, were the broken promises, the constant teasing that good times were just around the corner. I was promised raises, promotions, more autonomy… Just as long as I hunkered down and worked REALLY hard I would be rewarded. None of these things ever emerged. When it came for our annual therapy session there would always be some excuse why there wasn’t enough money, or how we just need to see how the restructuring would go for the next six months before they could consider a promotion, etc.

Ironically, in my previous relationship, the bane of my life ended up in enforced retirement due to a broken heart. Like crying Nazis, I had no sympathy for him. We both left the relationship damaged—him physically, and me emotionally.

I should’ve had a cooling off period. Stepped back and taken stock. But like a fool I jumped straight into another relationship, on the rebound. This new relationship promised to be different. It was flash, promised me things I couldn’t get elsewhere, and OK, so we weren't exactly rich, we were caught up in the allure of the honeymoon period.

Understandably, I started to wonder whether it was me that attracted these types of relationships. Perhaps I was at fault? Perhaps I hadn’t been working hard enough? If it wasn’t for fellow colleagues around me observing and experiencing similar situations around me I would’ve genuinely started to doubt my own abilities. But with hindsight I was being gaslighted. 

And I wasn’t the only one.

I saw colleagues belittled, undermined, and essentially told they were lying when they raised concerns about sexual harassment. Divide and rule was apparently the management’s mantra. And I say “management” in the loosest possible terms as I saw our relationship flailing around like a dying whale on a beach, unable to find it’s way back to water. When they finally hired someone to throw wet blankets on its back and dig a channel back to the open water I watched that highly skilled and knowledgeable work colleague driven out merely for the fact that she was a woman who didn’t know her place and had the temerity to query upper management’s decisions. Things went from bad to worse when they replaced her with a man so unreconstructed in nature he made Donald Trump look like a feminist. You didn’t even have to scratch the surface, merely wipe it with a cloth, before you saw the misogyny and racism shining through. 

Much as it pains me to admit, I could’ve lived with that, albeit uncomfortably. But when the new person had less experience in our field than any single person in the company (and I include the intern) I started to wonder why had they hired this person? They’d fired the only other employee who knew what they were doing and beached themselves once more by hiring a replacement with no experience whatsoever in the company’s business. This suicidal move had several people wondering whether it was just the front for a money-laundering scheme or as a massive tax loss. Nothing else made sense! Except ineptitude. 

The fact that I was actually in an open-relationship as a freelancer for them, yet they constantly tried to control my movements, determine when I was available to them and threatened to retain my housekeeping money, in order to coerce a relationship they legally had no control over, speaks volumes. But I couldn’t see the toxic environment for the abuse.

In the short time I was in the “relationship” I saw 50% of the staff leave under unhappy circumstances, and I’m sure there are more to follow. That’s a pretty sizeable turnover for any operation, but particularly for one so small.

Both bullies worked on the principle of all stick, no carrot, which is no kind of incentive in anyone’s eyes (unless you're a Tory MP) and only creates resentment. In four years I never saw my housekeeping money go up.

So now I’m back in the sea looking at all the fish. But this time I’m taking my time. I know my worth and I’m sick of being gaslighted by bullies who promise everything and deliver nothing. 

No more crucifixions.

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